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Interview with Willie Mae Hart by Heather Burmeister and Lisa Donnelly on February 25, 2010, in Portland, Oregon.

Willie discusses the many important moments in Oregon history such as the Vanport Flood, the debate over the Public Accommodations Act, and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's campaign visit to Portland in 1960, where he met Willie Mae at an event that she had organized.


Willie Mae Hart was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on April 4, 1915. Determined to protect her newborn son from racial violence in the South, she relocated first to California and then to Portland, Oregon in 1939, where she has lived ever since. During World War II, she worked in the Kaiser shipyards on Swan Island, and after the war she and her husband operated Portland’s first Black-owned taxicab company. During the Vanport flood of 1948, they used their cabs to provide free transportation to Vanport residents fleeing the devastation. After Harts sold the taxicab company, Willie Mae Hart fulfilled her lifelong ambition to work in medicine by becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Hart joined the NAACP in 1940 and has been involved in civil rights and social justice organizations including the Urban League of Portland, the Council of Negro Women, and Women in Community Service throughout her life.


Part 2 of the interview with Willie Mae Hart occurred on March 8, 2010. Heather Burmeister was the interviewer.

For more information on Willie Mae Hart please see the Black United Front Oral History digital exhibit.

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